Whenever we visit the flock we do a quick head count to make sure that everyone is still in the group (and to ensure nobody has wandered off). We count them as we have always counted, starting at one and going up, because that’s how it works, isn’t it?
However, counting sheep hasn’t always been as it is now, and in some places the ‘old ways’ of counting are still in place. Yan, tan, tethera has been used to count sheep for more years than not all over the country. The counting system originated in Northern England, though the exact words vary depending on the local dialect, but all have the same sort of pattern.
Using pictures of our girls (and Atlas), we’ve put together a brief outline of how to count to five using this system.
Yan (one), tan (two), tethera (three), methera (four), pip (five) – this is the Derbyshire way. For those with higher aspirations in sheep counting…sethera (six), lethera (seven), hovera (eight), dovera (nine), dick (ten).
Other uses of Yan, tan, tethera:
This folk song named ‘Molly Metcalfe’, has a catchy tune, uses the sheep counting words and also outlines how hard it is shepherding in the unforgiving weather in the UK.
There is also a yarn brand named Yan-Tan-Tethera, for those of a knitting persuasion.